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Latest News in Israel – 3rd February

Anti-Jewish Labor bid ‘sickens’ Warren Mundine

Warren Mundine says he was ‘disgusted’ by the move to ban Labor politicians from visiting Israel if their trips have been funded by Jewish organisations.

Former Labor national president Warren Mundine has launched a blistering attack on the party, saying its move to ban sponsored trips to Israel is “verging on anti-Semitic’’ and is “sickening to watch”.

Mr Mundine admonished the party’s leadership, saying NSW Labor was at risk of becoming a fringe party over its hardline ­approach to the only Middle East democracy

“It is an illogical, verging on anti-Semitic approach,” he said.

“We do not do this to other countries. Name another country that the Labor Party bans people from going to? There are none.

“What is the difference with this country? The only difference is that they are Jewish, and I just find that quite sickening that a party that I was president of would move down that road.”

Speaking ahead of the NSW Labor conference, which starts on February 13, Mr Mundine, the chairman of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, said he was “disgusted” by the move to ban Labor politicians from visiting Israel if their trips have been funded by Jewish ­organisations, The Australia/­Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

The NSW ALP international relations policy committee chairman Michael Forshaw told The Australian yesterday that 39 resolutions had been received concerning Israel and Palestine, compared with 17 resolutions dealing with other international issues, such as the Syrian war, the Myanmar junta, Paris terror bombings, China free trade and foreign aid.

There were none on Saudi Arabia or Iran.

There are moves to recognise Palestinian statehood and to boycott products from Israel that originate in settlement areas, and many concerning banning trips to Israel while Benjamin Netan­yahu is Prime Minister.

The move by Labor is partly driven by political motivations to secure the vote from Muslim communities in marginal southwest Sydney seats.

“In politics you understand these things, but there is a moral line that you do not cross,” Mr Mundine said.

“The Labor Party in NSW is speeding across that line.

“They are not only walking or stepping, they are rushing across it for pure political reasons, and it’s sickening to watch.”

Mr Mundine said Labor MPs should remember that Israel was the only democracy in the region with a parliament of Jewish, Arab, Christian and Muslim politicians sitting within a vast region of problematic countries.

“I find it quite disgusting, actually,’’ he said.

“It is almost burgeoning into this BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) system of anti-Semitism,’’ he said.

Members of the pro-Palestinian group include federal MPs Jason Clare, Sam Dastyari and Tony Burke, with former NSW premier Bob Carr a high-profile advocate.

NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley supports a compromise ­solution to spend equal time in Palestinian territories as in Israel.

Federal leader Bill Shorten has refused to endorse this policy, trusting MPs to form their own judgments about their travel arrangements.         (The Australian)

ALP’s anti-Semitic views behind push for trip ban

by Sharri MarksonI              The Australian


Jewish advocacy groups are “cancerous” and “malicious” and try to “deny, misinform and scaremonger”.

A NSW Labor politician voiced these incendiary words — the first NSW Muslim MP, in fact, Shaoquett Moselmane.

He didn’t utter them in the privacy of his own home. He felt comfortable enough broadcasting this anti-semitic sentiment within the walls of the NSW Parliament. This is terrifying in itself.

The MP, who ironically decried racism in his first speech to parliament, made the remarks just two years ago, in May 2013. He was not shouted-out of the high office he holds for racist commentary. On the contrary, Labor continues to support him and Moselmane is now a vocal advocate behind a push to ban Labor MPs from visiting Israel on trips funded by Jewish organisations.

A group Moselmane is aligned with, Labor Friends of Palestine, supports the ban on the trips while the Netanyahu government continues settlements, refuses a Palestinian state and “brutally mistreats Arab residents of the West Bank.”

This is one of 39 resolutions critical of Israel submitted to the NSW Labor conference this month.

By comparison, just 17 motions have been put forward that relate to other countries, including Iraq, Syria, China or Libya. There are none on Saudi Arabia or Iran.

Countries that kill women for adultery. That jail writers, like Raif Badawi, for supporting free-speech. That censor the news. That destroy ancient relics. That fund terrorists who kill innocent people as they go to the theatre or draw cartoons.

But no, NSW Labor is most worried about Israel, a tiny Jewish state. A democracy. A country that has lively political debate within its society and media. Where one of its mainstream newspapers, Haaretz, criticises the government daily. Where some of its population complain and campaign loudly about Netanyahu and illegal settlements.

The father of the anti-Israel movement is Bob Carr, whose speeches have on at least one occasion, in July last year, elicited anti-semitic commentary from the audience, with a remark made about “the Jews” and their “3000-year fundamentalist influence.”

Following Carr in his unhealthy Israel obsession, are MPs in marginal western Sydney seats who weakly give up key Labor values of tolerance and fairness in order to appeal to their Muslim constituency.

Banning trips to Israel is not the answer to illegal settlements. Negotiations and dialogue are.

By enforcing a rule that equal time must be spent in Israel and Palestinian territories, Labor leaders are making a judgement about their colleagues’ level of intelligence and credulity, implying they are incapable of forming their own views after meeting Jewish Israelis.

The NSW branch of the Labor party — a mob so hopeless that they couldn’t sort out Sydney’s traffic chaos — should focus on refining their health, education and transport policies, before they begin to get involved in the Middle East.

Sharri Markson travelled to Israel last year with Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council

Palestinian youth arrested with concealed knife while stalking Jewish home in Old City

A 14-year-old Palestinian boy suspected of attempting to carry out a terrorist attack against a Jewish family living near the Old City’s Muslim Quarter was arrested by police Monday morning.

Officers patrolling the area saw the suspect behaving suspiciously on Hagai Street, near the spot where a terrorist stabbed to death Rabbi Nehemia Lavie and Aharon Benita, and critically wounded Lavie’s wife and two-year-old son, last October.

“At approximately 9 a.m.the suspect was seen walking in and around the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, adjacent to a Jewish house,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

“Police immediately approached him and carried out a search, finding a knife hidden on his body.”

After the unidentified boy was questioned, Rosenfeld said it was determined that he intended to carry out a stabbing attack on a Jewish family living in the area.

He was arrested and arraigned at Jerusalem Magistrate Court, where a judge ordered his remand, Rosenfeld said, adding that heightened security continues throughout the Old City.

On the evening of October 3, a Palestinian terrorist murdered Lavie, an Old City resident who worked at the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva, and Aharon Benita from Beitar Illit.

Lavie’s wife and toddler were critically wounded in the attack, while a fifth male victim, in his 20s, was lightly wounded.

The terrorist took a pistol from one of his victims and while he was firing wildly into a crowd of tourists, he was shot dead by Border Police.

Hamas subsequently issued a statement praising the killer as a “hero.”                     (Jerusalem Post)

‘Israel will never leave Golan Heights, no matter what’

Israel will never leave the Golan Heights, no matter what diplomatic settlement is reached in Syria, Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold told a gathering in Jerusalem on Sunday of Israeli ambassadors from around the world.

Israel took control of the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six-Day War in 1967 and annexed the area in 1981, a move not recognized internationally.

Regarding the ongoing civil war in Syria, Gold reiterated that Israel has no desire to become involved in the conflict.

On the Palestinian issue, Gold said, “Israel will not return to the 1967 borders. It won’t happen. Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] prefers a unilateral strategy over negotiations with Israel. [U.S. Secretary of State] John Kerry tried to achieve a breakthrough. In 2014, he even presented a framework agreement, but Abbas rejected it.”

Referring to the regional situation in the Middle East, Gold said Israel has mutual interests “with a number of moderate Arab states.”

“It is possible to reach agreements and codes of conduct with these countries,” Gold said. “It must be decided who is in the tent and who is not.”

On the question of which poses a greater threat, Iran or the Islamic State group, Gold said, “Iran is more dangerous.”

Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit, also addressed the gathering of ambassadors. Mordechai said it was unclear who would succeed Abbas as head of the PA in the future. He warned, however, that those jockeying to replace Abbas are finding it beneficial to appear tougher and more outspoken against Israel.

Speaking about the ongoing wave of Palestinian terrorism, Mordechai said, “Operating without a guiding hand is what characterizes lone terrorists.” Mordechai noted, however, that attackers are being influenced by anti-Israel incitement.                   (Israel Hayom)

Russia to Israel: We’re not passing weapons to Hezbollah

An internal Russian probe has determined that Israeli fears of Russia passing arms to the Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah are baseless. The Israeli ambassador to Moscow, Zvi Heifetz, relayed the findings to a Knesset committee and added that the relations between the two countries “are flourishing in an unprecedented manner.”

The assurance came following a few weeks of concern by Israel that Russia had been supplying Hezbollah with weapons, as the two are working together to help bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the ongoing Syrian civil war. Russia made assurances to Israel that it did not and will not transfer any weapons to the terrorist organization that is in de facto control of a large area of Lebanon. Israel’s ambassador to Moscow made the report to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.

Heifetz’s briefing is the first time in years that an ambassador personally briefed the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee regarding the state of the relationship between Israel and the country in which he serves.

While the committee meeting was classified, Haaretz reports that Heifetz told the panel how Moscow’s promise was sparked by an international media report a few weeks ago. The report asserted that Russia was supplying arms to Hezbollah as part of its ongoing operations in Syria, where it is working in conjunction with Iran and the Assad regime.

The original media report that appeared in the Daily Beast quoted Hezbollah fighters and commanders who said Russia was providing a variety of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah including surface-to-surface missiles, laser-guided rockets and Russian-made antitank missiles. Furthermore the report claimed that Russia had placed no conditions on the use of the weapons and that Moscow had gone so far as to ask Hezbollah to guard its arsenals in Syria, thereby giving Hezbollah access to all the weapons stored there.

Heifetz stressed that, due to the report, the Russian ambassador in Tel Aviv had reached out to senior officials in Israel’s Foreign Minister and told them the reports were false. The Russian ambassador stressed that the Russian government conducted an internal investigation of the issue and it verified that no arms were passed from Russian troops in Syria to Hezbollah.

Heifetz reportedly said in the meeting that “there is an open line between us and the Russians on every level. We made our red lines known clear to the Russians regarding Syria and the involvement by Iran and Hezbollah. When we have any concerns, we discuss them.”

It is also noteworthy that the ambassador added in his report to the committee members that Russia’s involvement in Syria is based upon their own interests, rather than due to an alliance with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“The Russian view is that Assad creates stability, and therefore, they want to bolster him. Assad currently serves Russia’s interests, but not at any price.”

Heifetz reportedly also said that Russia is looking for a way to resolve the Syrian crisis and has no interest in maintaining its massive military presence in Syria for a long period of time.                      (Arutz Sheva)

Olmert to be convicted of obstruction of justice in plea bargain deal

Marking a continuing heavy fall, former prime minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday will be convicted by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court of obstruction of justice in coordination with his former top aide as part of a plea bargain deal ending the Shula Zaken tapes saga.

In the plea bargain that Olmert agreed to on January 18, he admitted to obstruction of justice with Zaken in both the Talansky Affair and the Holyland Affair.

Olmert also agreed to a sixmonth jail sentence and a NIS 50,000 fine, but the six months will run concurrent with his 18-month Holyland sentence, so it will not actually add on further jail time.

When the deal was announced, many also expected Olmert and the state prosecution to reach a deal on the Talansky, Rishon Tours and Investment Affairs, but ultimately talks broke down on those cases and the sides argued over them on January 19 before the Supreme Court.

From their arguments to the Supreme Court, it was clear that the sides split over whether any jail time Olmert agreed to in those affairs would also run concurrent with his 18-month Holyland sentence or whether time would be added on to the sentence.

The plea bargain on obstruction of justice was filed by the Central District Attorney’s Office with the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court simultaneously with a new indictment for the two separate counts of obstruction of justice corresponding to the Talansky and Holyland Affairs.

In early January, Olmert’s lawyer Eyal Rozovsky met with head State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan to discuss a deal which could wrap up all his many remaining legal troubles.

Discussions were being held with the aim of agreeing to a set amount of prison time he would serve for all the remaining cases, so as to save him and the prosecution time on further trials and appeals to the Supreme Court and globally reduce his prison time.

In May, the Jerusalem District Court sentenced Olmert to eight months in prison following his conviction in the Talansky Affair retrial, one of three violations he was accused of in the Jerusalem corruption trial.

The Talansky case consisted of Olmert illegally receiving, using and concealing at least $153,950 in envelopes from New York businessman Morris Talansky between 1993 and 2002.

Olmert is already set to become the first prime minister in the country’s history to go to jail, on February 15.

The sentence for the Talansky Affair was his second jail term, following another 18 months he is due to serve for the Holyland real estate case, which the Supreme Court reduced on appeal, from an initial six-year sentence.

But the state has appealed other cases in which Olmert has been acquitted, such as the Rishon Tours Affair.

In the case of Rishon Tours, Olmert had been accused of double-billing organizations for reimbursements for international flights, and the state has appealed the verdict that found him innocent of these charges.

Without a plea bargain, Olmert faces potential additional jail time if the Supreme Court reverses his Rishon Tours Affair acquittal.

The Talansky Affair retrial came out of the state’s appeal of Olmert’s July 2012 acquittal in the original trial to the Supreme Court, with the Supreme Court sending the case back to the district court for a retrial in summer 2014.

In the more minor Investment Affair, Olmert was convicted of granting of favors in his capacity as a minister to his confidante Uri Messer, despite a conflict of interest. Olmert received a sentence of six months community service, which the state has also appealed.

A Supreme Court order for a retrial of these cases came after shocking new recordings emerged last year suggesting Olmert may have been illegally plotting with his former aide of 30 years, Shula Zaken, regarding the handling of his original trial.

Zaken refused to testify in the first trial and perjured herself on Olmert’s behalf during the Holyland trial, without letting on about the existence of the recordings until these cases were being appealed, and she became embroiled in negotiating a separate deal with prosecutors.

Olmert admitted to telling Zaken not to testify in the first trial and to not cut a deal with the prosecution in the Holyland trial. He told her, “if I am not acquitted, no one will be acquitted.”

He also offered to arrange for her to be paid large sums of money, including having her legal fees covered.

Zaken listened to him and refused a plea bargain before taking the stand in the Holyland trial.

After his initial acquittal in the Talansky Affair, many thought Olmert might make a full return to politics and even the prime minister’s chair.

However, once he had a falling out with Zaken when one of his lawyers called her corrupt in a television interview, she changed her mind and accepted a deal with the state to testify against him, an event which started his downfall and led to a line of legal losses as well as revelations of her incriminating tapes documenting their plotting.     (Jerusalem Post)

Poll: Most Frenchmen believe Jews responsible for rise in anti-Semitism 

Fully 60 percent of Frenchmen believe that Jews bear at least some responsibility for recent rises in anti-Semitism, according to a new poll by the Ipsos market research firm.

According to French media reports, the 18-month study, which was sponsored by the Fondation du judaïsme français, also found that 56% of Frenchmen believe that Jews have a “lot of power” and are richer than average while more than 40% said that Jews are “a little too present in the media.”

About 13% agreed that “there are a few too many Jews in France,” perhaps helping to explain why “three-quarters consider it difficult to be a Jew in France” and 40% are considering emigration.

These findings confirm another recent poll by the Institut français d’opinion publique, which pegged the number of French Jews mulling moving to Israel at 43% percent. Given France’s approximately 700,000 Jews, that translates to about 200,000 people.

Anti-Semitism and a worsening economy have driven many French Jews to seek their fortunes abroad, with significant communities forming in Montreal, London and other cities.

Speaking last year, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky stated that around 50,000 French Jews asked for information about immigrating to Israel in 2014.

More than 7,900 French Jews made aliya in 2015, up 10% from the previous year, when the western European nation became the leading source of immigrants here with 7,000 olim, more than twice the number from 2013.

This week’s Ipsos poll also found that French mistrust of Islamic immigrants was high, with more than half of respondents stating that they did not believe that immigration enriched their country and nearly a third stating that “racist reactions may be justified.”

While 26% of respondents stated that Muslims were problematic, however, only 4% said the same regarding Jews.

According to a study conducted by the Anti-Defamation League in 2014, 37% of people in France believe in enough anti-Semitic stereotypes to be counted as biased.

In an email to the Jerusalem Post on Monday, French expert Dr. Dov Maimon of the Jewish People Policy Institute commented that the results of the Ipsos poll were “unfortunately not real news.”

“40% of Jews have investigated quitting.

Antisemitism is very high, etc. Jews are perceived as too many in the media, in the politics, in finance, in public affairs, etc. What is new? Jews are not perceived as troublemakers, they are contributing to the country. Prejudices against Muslims are much higher.”             (Jerusalem Post)

US busts Hezbollah drug, money laundering scheme

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced on Monday that an international operation had led to the arrests of members of a Hezbollah cell in Europe involved in drug trafficking and money laundering.

According to the DEA, the Lebanese terrorist group uses the money it makes from the sale of cocaine in the U.S. and Europe to fund the purchase of weapons for use in Syria, where Hezbollah is fighting to preserve the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

A DEA statement said the “ongoing investigation spans the globe and involves numerous international law enforcement agencies in seven countries, and once again highlights the dangerous global nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism.”

The DEA said Hezbollah members have established business relationships with South American drug cartels.

“These drug trafficking and money laundering schemes utilized by the Business Affairs Component [of Hezbollah] provide a revenue and weapons stream for an international terrorist organization responsible for devastating terror attacks around the world,” DEA Acting Deputy Administrator Jack Riley said. “DEA and our international partners are relentless in our commitment to disrupt any attempt by terrorists and terrorist organizations to leverage the drug trade against our nations. DEA and our partners will continue to dismantle networks who exploit the nexus between drugs and terror using all available law enforcement mechanisms.”

Among those arrested, the most prominent figure was Mohamad Noureddine, whom the DEA described as a “Lebanese money launderer who has worked directly with Hezbollah’s financial apparatus to transfer Hezbollah funds via his Lebanon-based company Trade Point International S.A.R.L. and maintained direct ties to Hezbollah commercial and terrorist elements in both Lebanon and Iraq.”

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions targeting Hezbollah-affiliated money launderers Noureddine and Hamdi Zaher El Dine, as well as Trade Point International S.A.R.L.

Adam J. Szubin, the acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said, “Hezbollah needs individuals like Mohamad Noureddine and Hamdi Zaher El Dine to launder criminal proceeds for use in terrorism and political destabilization. We will continue to target this vulnerability, and expose and disrupt such enablers of terrorism wherever we find them.”           (Israel Hayom)

Telstra start-up expands Israeli deal

Telstra has extended its global innovation footprint with the telco’s start-up incubator muru-D forging a brand new partnership with Tel Aviv-based accelerator program, The Junction.

The alliance extends muru-D’s global network and according to president of Telstra Software Group and muru-D co-founder Charlotte Yarkoni, The Junction will play a critical role in opening doors for Australian and Singapore-based start-ups under Telstra’s tutelage.

“We see Israel as a very interesting ecosystem and it’s an environment that we can absolutely learn from,” Ms Yarkoni told The Australian.

Telstra’s start-up incubator has been looking to add Israel to its mix for some time and Ms Yarkoni said the evolution of the “start-up” nation’s formidable track record as an innovation powerhouse holds a number of lessons for Australian start-ups.

“We are really not trying to encourage any pilgrimages for Australian start-ups to (Silicon Valley or Israel); our mission is all about bolstering the local ecosystem and making it globally relevant,” she said.

“Each of these areas has a unique point of specialisation and characteristics that are not trying to replicate, but we can certainly learn from them.

“At muru-D we have a chance to pick up from the best and then apply the (lessons) to start-ups that are part of our program and then mining them for broader benefits to Australia,” Ms Yarkoni added.

Harnessing this enthusiasm could be the first step for the local start-up ecosystem to find its place in the world. Finding the unique point of difference is likely to be the biggest question as access to capital becomes less of a hindrance for aspiring start-ups.

“A lot of thought needs to go into this before we can look holistically into what our point of differentiation is going to be,” Ms Yarkoni said.

However, she’s confident that Australia possesses all of the raw ingredients to carve out its own niche in the global innovation game.

“We don’t lack for innovation and entrepreneurs. There may be other aspects of the ecosystem that are a little behind, but it’s not like we are starting without any thought leadership.”

It’s a confidence that bodes well for Australian start-ups as they prepare to face the new year. Ms Yarkoni’s co-founder at muru-D, Annie Parker, says current palpitations in global markets pose interesting questions for Australian start-ups.

Speaking to The Australian at the All Above Human conference in Melbourne, Ms Parker said the current volatility was an opportunity to put the right foundations in place that would allow our budding innovation ecosystem to ride any potential downturns.

“An old boss of mine used to say ‘never waste a good crisis’ and you often find that the true moment of innovation happens in these times of crisis,” she said.

It’s a sentiment backed up by technology entrepreneur, investor and co-founder of All Above Human, Susan Wu, who says a downturn could be the catalyst of long-term innovation.

“What happens is that your start-up tourists leave the space because they don’t see any short-term returns and the people who stay are those who care about their product and are serious about building it efficiently,” Ms Wu said.

The good news in Australia is there’s plenty of capital starting to flow in, and with a number of significant funds in place, Ms Parker said the fundamental infrastructure was starting to take shape, but not all parts of the ecosystems were in sync.

Airtree Ventures’ founder and managing partner Craig Blair said sourcing the right guidance was a far bigger challenge for our start-ups. “The problem we have here isn’t capital ­ it’s the fact that we need more mentors,” Mr Blair said.

It’s a gap that local corporates are keen to fill.

Telstra’s muru-D is one example, but it’s not alone. From financial services providers to consultancies like KPMG and Pricewaterhouse Coopers, which yesterday announced a new $2.5 million accelerator program for start-ups in the education space, everyone wants to play a part.

Muru-D’s Ms Parker warns that corporate involvement in the start-up space can’t be piecemeal and it can’t become too prescriptive. According to Ms Parker, the investment has to be meaningful.

“Programs like muru-D exist because we are there to help first-time entrepreneurs course correct,” she said. With muru-D primed to take another lot of start-ups under its wing this month, Ms Parker said the talent pool of ideas and expertise was starting to deepen in Australia.

This diversity is a healthy sign and Airtree’s Mr Blair is excited by the trend of those entrepreneurs who have already cut their teeth successfully the first time around and are now re-entering the local market, bringing with them not just capital but also valuable knowledge.

While the Turnbull government started the ball rolling, there are concerns the enthusiasm about start-ups and innovation may wane as a federal election draws nearer. However, Ms Parker is hopeful the rhetoric around bipartisanship is more than hollow words.                                (The Australian)

Israel and Turkey sign Gas Deal worth $US 1.3 billion

Israeli and Turkish energy firms, signed an agreement on Sunday, to sell 1.3 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of gas to Edeltech, Israel’s Leviathan natural gas field, offshore partners announced.

The Leviathan natural gas field was discovered in 2010, and holds an estimated 622 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas reserves.

The partners said, they commit to providing six bcm within 18 years.

Edeltech and Zorlu Enerji, a Turkish energy conglomerate, will employ the gas to operate two new energy plants, being established in southern Israel.

Both plants will provide energy to the industrial sector.

The privately owned Edeltech and Zorlu have already become partners, with three energy plants in southern Israel.

The deal involves selling the first gas from the Leviathan reservoir to the Israeli market.

The agreement ensues two memoranda of understanding (MoUs), signed by the partners with neighbouring Jordan and Egypt last year.

The Leviathan gas field and the smaller Tamar field are controlled by a consortium headed by Texas-based Noble Energy and Israel-based Delek Group.

Gas production in Tamar, however, kicked off in Mar, 2013.

Noble believes that gas from Leviathan could be sold as soon as 2019, despite plummeting gas prices.

The long-awaited agreement, allowing Noble and Delek to develop the Leviathan, was finally signed in Dec, 2015, by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Approval followed years of political upheaval and widespread public protest, with weekly rallies in major cities protesting against “selling out” the country’s natural resources to a monopoly         (Xinhua News)

US espionage and Hamas tunneling highlight malaise in Israel’s defenses

We we’re supposed to be the super-sophisticated start-up nation. But we can’t secure our most sensitive military communications, and we haven’t even tried to find an Iron Dome-style answer to Hamas’s under-border digging

by David Horovitz             The Times of Israel


Israel professed itself to be “disappointed” but “not surprised” by the revelation Friday that the US and UK have been hacking Israeli air force drone and fighter jet communications for the past 18 years. Excuse me? If this came as no surprise to the Israeli authorities, why didn’’t they do anything about it?

Israeli leaders brag endlessly about what a cyber powerhouse we are. And yet our most sophisticated communications, it turns out, have been continually decrypted for the best part of two decades. Tell me, did we not change the encryption process for 20 years? And if we did, was the encryption so amateurish as to present no challenge at all to American and British state hackers?

Some Israeli security sources have been strenuously asserting over the weekend that the breach is of little material consequence ­ in part because, after all, the US and UK are our allies, not our enemies. In truth, however, the revelations raise all manner of troubling questions and issues.

For a start, they make a mockery of the relentlessly hyped, supposedly unprecedented level of intelligence-sharing between Israel and the United States. In fact, the US clearly does not remotely trust Israel to provide it with full intelligence cooperation. (On Sunday we learned the US and UK even reportedly spied on our missile defense tests.) In fact, the US routinely engages in espionage against the Jewish state. In fact, the US would have known in real time if Israel had gone ahead with its much-threatened strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. One can only wonder how the US, opposing any such strike, would have acted ­ what practical steps it would have taken ­ when its spyware told it that the Israelis were gearing up to attack.

The very fact that we’re all now aware of the spying underlines another deeply disturbing aspect of the case. Those clever Americans and Brits thought they were extracting Israel’s secrets for their own internal state interests. Instead, however, it now turns out, the US intelligence vaults were wide open too ­ open to penetration by the likes of Edward Snowden. So it’s not just US and UK intelligence that can now see classified Israeli air force footage and communications. Whatever Snowden got hold of is now out there for all the world to savor.

Finally, if the US and UK can breach top-secret Israeli military communications, presumably hostile forces can too. Years after we all patted ourselves on the back for the ostensible sophistication of the Stuxnet virus that sped up Iran’s centrifuges, sending them crashing into each other and apparently delaying Iran’s nuclear weapons progress by several months, it’s an entirely safe bet that Tehran has been dedicating itself assiduously to mastering the dark art of cyber warfare. With Israel at the top of its list of targets.

If Israel can’t protect its most sensitive information from its friends, one dreads to imagine the degree of our vulnerability to our enemies

In 1997, Hezbollah hacked into a non-encrypted Israel drone feed and was consequently able to ambush members of the IDF’s elite Shayetet 13 naval unit on a raid into Lebanon, killing 12 Israeli soldiers. That the feed was unencrypted in the first place was a scandal. That the encryption procedures introduced in the wake of that disaster were self-evidently utterly inadequate is a fatally bad joke.

If Israel can’t protect its most sensitive information from its friends, one dreads to imagine the degree of our vulnerability to our enemies.

Cat and mouse on the Gaza border

The great allied decryption scandal was not the only story this weekend suggesting a profound malaise in our security apparatus.

Barely 18 months since we were last dragged into a war with Hamas, Gaza’s Islamist rulers have regained their confidence about going to war with us again. Their former prime minister Ismail Haniyeh gloated on Friday that rocket development has proceeded apace ­ as we know from the incessant instances of Hamas testing its rockets with launches into the Mediterranean ­ and that tunnel digging is making unprecedented progress.

For all the promises that sophisticated, super-start-up Israel would find an answer to the terror tunnel threat, Israel again now finds itself playing cat-and-mouse on the Gaza border. History repeating itself as dangerous farce, the residents of Israel’s Gaza-border communities again feel the ground shaking beneath their feet as Hamas’s tunnelers penetrate beneath them.

In the last war, Hamas failed to make maximal use of its cross-border tunnels. It failed to send the hundreds of gunmen it envisaged into Israel, to capture an army base, kibbutz or moshav, and utterly re-engineer the balance of power between us. It has since worked relentlessly to better its chances of pulling off a shattering attack at the start of a new round of conflict. And Israel? Israel never got around to so much as allocating the budget for the technology to devise an Iron Dome-style tunnel remedy.

Losing credibility

Meanwhile, France has come up with a program for restarting peace talks, backed by the threat that it will recognize a Palestinian state when that effort fails, as it inevitably will: If you tell the Palestinians you’ll recognize their state if peace talks go nowhere, that’s a veritable incentive for Palestinian obduracy ­ as the French surely know.

Maybe if the prime minister showed a willingness to call a formal halt to settlement expansion in areas Israel does not envisage retaining under any permanent accord, his intermittent assertions that he backs a two-state solution would carry more international credibility, Israel’s continuing slide into international isolation might be slowed, and he’d have more success persuading the likes of France that it’s not so easy to partner the right-of-return-demanding, Jewish history-denying, terror-inciting Palestinian leadership to statehood without putting the Israeli state at risk.

It would make an amusing ending to say, after Netanyahu’s tripartite summit last week, that at least we have Cyprus. Except it is from a Royal Air Force installation in the Troodos Mountains, near Mount Olympus, that the US and UK have been reading our air force communications. So Cyprus ­ or more accurately its American and British tenants ­ would appear to have us.

Signaling the start of an armed intifada?

The telltale signs are: First, the perpetrating terrorist’s profile, Second, each terrorist attack spurs imitation on the Palestinian side.

by Eliezer Marom               The Jerusalem Post


The terrorist attack on Sunday in Beit El seems to mark the beginning of the next armed intifada we have so far sought to avoid.

The telltale signs are: First, the perpetrating terrorist’s profile – he was a member of the Palestinian [Authority] security forces, aged 29 and married with children. This profile is not the same as that of the youth assailants that have been prevalent so far. Second, each terrorist attack spurs imitation on the Palestinian side, which could lead to further attempts by members of Palestinian security forces to turn their weapons against Israeli citizens.

Despite the stabbing, shooting and vehicular ramming attacks that characterize the current wave of terrorism, the proper operation of security officials and security coordination between the Palestinians and the IDF has allowed both sides to maintain a reasonable routine. Palestinian workers have retained permission to work in Israel and Israeli citizens maintain their day-to-day routines.

Terrorist shooting attacks that increase the number of casualties on both sides are likely to lead to a downward spiral that will require drastic security measures. This will catalyze an immediate loss of confidence and undermine the level of security coordination, which will have a damaging impact on the daily routine.

Similarly, in the second intifada, there was a rapid deterioration from the moment security personnel turned their weapons against Israeli targets.

Neither side has interest in escalating the situation to the point of loss of control. [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] “Abu Mazen” has aimed to return the Palestinian issue to center stage by means of an uprising.

Meanwhile, the Israeli side seeks to maintain the status quo and is not interested in demonstrating surrender in the face of terrorism.

A strong country, Israel has proven to the world that is does not capitulate to terrorism. We must continue to fight against terrorism with determination. Simultaneously, before control is lost and we descend into an armed intifada with unforeseeable results, it is necessary for leaders on both sides to maintain composure.

The launching of a diplomatic process aimed at shifting gears may work to prevent the deteriorative conditions that nobody desires. A summit meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas seems a worthy starting point for such a process.

The West Bank tipping point

It is still too soon to talk about a new, armed phase in Palestinian attacks, but the coming weeks will indicate whether the area is heading for reduced violence or another escalation.

by Yaacov Lappin                 The Jerusalem Post


Recent security developments in the West Bank have been unusual in their scope and severity, and could lead to the conclusion that the area is on a clear path to another escalation. But such conclusions are premature.

Israel and the Palestinians appear to be at a tipping point in the West Bank, and the coming weeks will be the true indicator of whether the area is headed for a deescalation, or for a deterioration in the security situation.

The fact that a Palestinian Authority police officer used his firearm to go on a shooting spree, targeting IDF soldiers, represents just the type of attack that could end up being an “inspiration” to other armed members of the Palestinian security forces. They, in turn, could launch copycat shootings

Such a dangerous turn of events could spell the end of security coordination between Israel and the PA, and signify a major new escalation. However, this has not happened, and it is very much in the interest of both sides that it does not come to pass.

The PA is still guided by self-interest, meaning it continues security coordination with Israel and represses Hamas terrorist cells that are keen on toppling and replacing the PA, and terrorizing Israelis with atrocities.

As Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Israel Radio on Monday, the PA foils 20 percent of organized terrorism, and Israel thwarts the remaining 80% of Hamas and Islamic Jihad plots.

This shared interest remains the glue that keeps events from spiraling further out of control.

The large-scale, mass-casualty terrorist plots are being thwarted on a nightly basis, leaving only lone-wolf attackers to act.

The profile of the shooter behind Sunday’s gun attack, which wounded three IDF soldiers, indicates that the Palestinian police officer decided to act on his own. He is the latest in a long line of lone terrorists who have so far killed 30 Israelis and wounded more than 300 since September.

Despite the persistent attacks, there is no sign of a mass mobilization by Palestinians to take part in violence.

There has been no recent spike in the number of overall incidents. In fact, the number of shootings, firebombings and stabbings, as well as rock-throwing and car-ramming attacks in Judea and Samaria, have remained relatively stable.

In fact, the IDF has even seen a small drop. That data is not supposed to comfort anyone, but it does indicate that there is still a possibility to move back from the brink.

Similarly, the decision by the IDF’s Central Command to impose a semi-closure on Ramallah on Monday was an unmistakable statement by Israel about its determination to check the flow of terrorist attacks.

The IDF put similar closures in place across the West Bank in recent weeks. At the start of January, for example, the village of Sa’ir found itself under temporarily closure after an 18-year-old local stabbed an IDF reservist at a bus stop at the Gush Etzion junction and was then shot and killed.

Closures are designed to disrupt the flow of terrorist attacks, to catch the next assailants on their way to their targets, and to send a clear statement about Israel’s determination to respond to attacks. They join a host of other IDF measures, both offensive and defensive, to keep the situation from escalating further.

The area is, however on the edge, and could go in either direction.